Google News, McCain and the blonde

Make that The Mystery Blonde (TMB), as in her identity was a mystery to me, at least for a few hours.

Earlier today, the photo combination you see here of Sen. John McCain and the glamorous TMB appeared on the front page of Google News along with this "story" about McCain, a cancer survivor, getting ready to release his health records. That's according to a reliable source of mine, who shall remain nameless because he can fire me; I didn't see it myself.

The "story" and photos that Google News pointed its readers to were posted on a flea-bitten Web site called DogFlu.ca, which -- how shall I put this -- carries the distinct odor of splog.

Highlighting such crapolla is the sort of journalistic misdemeanor that Google News commits on a regular basis for the very simple reason that its editors are ones and zeroes instead of the infallible human beings who populate the mastheads of your better newspapers and news sites. In other words, Google News has no editors; software does all the work and sometimes that results in strange results.

No big deal, but who -- inquiring minds still wanted to know -- was TMB and what was she doing in a "story" about a presidential candidate's health being flagged on the front page of Google News?

"Maybe she's McCain's oncologist," suggested one wag who noticed that the senator's doctor is indeed female. As for more serious answers, a half-dozen editors were stumped to offer as much as a guess.

Not so the younger generation of Network World staffers, two of whom swiftly replied to my broader e-mail plea with news that they believed TMB to be none other than Heidi Montag, who has apparently endorsed McCain after earning her 15 minutes of fame through some show on MTV. (The most contemporary MTV personality I could name you is Martha Quinn.)

Anyway, they were not certain it was Heidi so it took me looking through dozens upon dozens upon dozens of photos of Ms. Montag -- this job can be so tedious at times -- before I found the exact one of her paired up with the exact one of McCain. Turns out the doggie flu site had "borrowed" the pictures from People magazine -- without credit to People or the photographers. As for the story, they "borrowed" that from the New York Times -- without credit to the newspaper or the authors.

As for Google News, they take pride in being a news source without editors. Don't ask me why.

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